Places to Visit in Scotland
- National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh

National Portrait Gallery

The Building
National Portrait GalleryThe National Portrait Gallery is housed in a magnificent Gothic edifice on Queen Street in the centre of Edinburgh, five minutes walk from Princes Street and Waverley Station. The building was designed by Sir Robert Rowan Anderson with all the embellishments you would expect from a Victorian architect. The Gallery moved there in 1889, seven years after it had first opened in temporary premises. The building has been compared, appropriately enough, to a great shrine. On the exterior, it is decorated with life-size sculptures such as those illustrated on the right.

The Gallery is open from 10am to 5pm, Monday to Saturday and 12-5pm on Sunday, though there are extended hours during the Edinburgh International Festival at the end of August.

The Great Hall
Mural High around the four sides of the main entrance hall is a mural depicting many of the famous figures from Scotland's history, in chronological order. It runs backwards from the 19th century historian Thomas Carlyle and goes back through time to a stone age man. It was created by artist William Hole. Above the frieze are paintings of the battles of Bannockburn, where Robert the Bruce defeated King Edward II of England in 1314 and the battle of Largs in 1263 when King Alexander III repulsed King Haakon IV of Norway (helped by gale force storms).

Thomas CarlyleAround the main entrance hall on both the ground and first floors are sculptures of still more great Scots - Burns, Sir Walter Scott, Carlyle, Watt and Raeburn. While photography is not allowed in the rest of the National Gallery, it is permitted in this entrance hall (including the mural). The illustration on the right is of a life-size sculpture of the philosopher Thomas Carlyle.

The ground floor is also where special temporary exhibitions are held and there is also an excellent book and gift shop which is well worth browsing round.

The Upper Galleries
There is a lift in the entrance hall which takes you to the top floor where you will find all the portraits of historical figures such as Mary Queen of Scots and other kings and queens, Sir Walter Scott, Bonnie Prince Charlie, Robert Burns etc up to the end of the 19th century. While the aim of the gallery is to display the men and women who have been significant in Scotland, regardless of who painted them, there are still works by such masters as Van Dyck, Gainsborough and Raeburn.

The middle floor displays portraits of 20th century personalities from the Queen Mother and Sir Harry Lauder to the comedian Robbie Coltrane (as a character in the TV series "Tutti Frutti"). Also on the middle floor, a portion of the National Collection of Photography is displayed.

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